News that Warner Bros. has offered Gary Oldman a pivotal supporting role in the upcoming Americanized take on Akira leaked out a couple weeks ago. Now, it seems, the studio still wants him for that part; however, Oldman is also the top choice to appear in the studio's latest cinematic spin on the Arthurian legend, Arthur & Lancelot.
Both of these projects are slowly, but surely, coming together. Akira appears to have all but locked-down one of its leads, in the form of Garrett Hedlund, and the Arthur adaptation is eying The Killing star Joel Kinnaman for its Lancelot role.
Deadline is confirming that Oldman would star in Akira as "The Colonel", a.k.a. Colonel Shikishima in Katsuhiro Otomo's original Akira anime/manga. The character oversees a secret government operation that involves testing young people with unnatural psychic abilities - including that of Tetsuo, a member of the renegade motorbike gang headed by Kaneda (Hedlund's would-be role). While 'The Colonel" at first appears to be the villain of Akira, he ultimately proves to be a honorable and decent soldier, dedicated to protecting civilians from a newly-empowered (and psychotic) Tetsuo.
Arthur & Lancelot is being scripted and helmed by David Dobkin, whose directorial resume includes Clay Pigeons, Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers, and The Change-Up. Oldman is being eyed to portray Merlin in Dobkin's Arthur story retelling... though, if Dobkin's filmography is any indication, Arthur & Lancelot could feature a more eccentric (re: comical) incarnation of the character, unlike the morally-murky and "realistic" version which Joseph Fiennes played in the now-defunct Starz TV series, Camelot.
To be frank, Oldman would almost undoubtedly be good in either of the aforementioned roles (the overall quality of either film aside). The actor's take on the Colonel would probably amount to a more militaristic spin on his "good cop" persona as Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies; depending on how Dobkin has imagined Merlin, Oldman portrayal of the wizard could be either pretty over-the-top (think of his performance as Zurg in The Fifth Element) or quietly understated, more like what Fiennes did in Camelot.
While Dobkin has an overall OK body of work under his belt, it's somewhat difficult to get too enthused about yet another reworking of the Arthur legend, no matter who's behind it. All the same, having stars like Oldman and Kinnaman onboard would only help attract interest in the project.
As for Akira - now that the film has been officially greenlit, perhaps it is time for fans to move past the fact that the story is now going to be set against a U.S. cultural background (and thus, probably not feature an Asian cast)... and just wait and see what pedigree of acting talent signs on for the flick, before coming to any concrete conclusions about whether or not this project is actually going to work.
Arthur & Lancelot is already slated for a theatrical release in the U.S. on March 15th, 2013.
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of Akira as more information is released.